The wave of democratic revolution blowing across northern Africa has recently swept Egypt, as pro-democracy groups in the tens of thousands took to the streets demanding an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s reign. The protest is considered the largest and most significant in Egypt since riots over bread subsidies shook the African country in 1977.
According to reports, Tunisian complaints about its autocratic leaders have been echoing throughout the Arab world, and Egyptians are the latest to take action.
Up to 30,000 police officers were deployed in central Cairo while thousands of citizens in the Egyptian capital protested at Midan Tahrir (Liberation Square), chanting in unison: “The people want the ouster of the regime.”
At least three Egyptians have died with many more injured in several cities, including Cairo and Suez, where police fired tear gas. Protestors responded by throwing rocks and tearing down posters of President Mubarak and Interior Minister Habib al-Adly, setting them on fire.
Egyptians are demanding the departure of Habib al-Adly (whose security forces have been accused of heavy-handedness), an end to a decades-old state of emergency, and a rise in the minimum wage.
“We have a corrupt regime that wants to continue with oppression forever,” reporters on the ground quoted 21-year-old lawyer Ibrahim Mohammed, one of the protesters in Cairo, as saying.
Experts say about 40 percent of Egypt’s 80-million-person population live on as little as two dollars per day, and many rely on subsidized goods.
“These demonstrations are the most important since 1977, not only because of the number of participants and the fact that they are across the country, but because for the first time they are coming from the average man on the street,” analyst Amr al-Choubaki of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies told reporters. “The revolution in Tunisia, of course, has been an inspiration.”
The Egyptian authorities have rejected any possibility that they might face a similar scenario, but have moved to reassure the public that subsidies on basic commodities will remain in place.
A large number of protesters affiliated with The Society of Muslim Brothers joined in the protests and damaged public property.
Protests also broke out in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria with about 20,000 participants, with another 10,000 protesters in the Nile Delta cities of Mansoura and Tanta, and in the southern cities of Aswan and Assiut.
The April 6 Youth Movement, a pro-democracy Egyptian Facebook youth group, organized the protests.
The United States has responded to the situation in Egypt by saying the government is stable.
“We support the fundamental right of expression and assembly for all people, and we urge that all parties exercise restraint and refrain from violence. But our impression is that the Egyptian government is stable, and looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was quoted as saying.